Dan Taylor
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Forged in Fire is a recent release from Worthington Games. It covers the American Civil War campaign of 1862, in which Union General McClellan attempted to fight his way up the Virginia Peninsula to the doors of Richmond. The game is played over 26 or so turns, with the units being represented by Columbia-games style “blocks.” The game features a number of smaller scenarios along with a larger campaign game covering McClellan’s attack from Fort Monroe towards the gates of Richmond.

Ynnen’s review (located here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/112987) does an excellent job of reviewing the game mechanics and describing gameplay. This review will focus on the game as history lesson and simulation.

The Peninsula Campaign of 1862 is a difficult one to recreate. The Union had significant material advantages, from their navy which could land them anywhere (within reason and the Virginia’s forbearance) to their larger army and siege train. The downside was McClellan – a cautious commander whose intelligence reports told him he was outnumbered 2:1. The difficulty in the campaign is giving the player the same choices and advantages possessed by the Union, without simply allowing the Union player to steamroll over the Confederates. Forged in Fire does an excellent job of this.

The Union player is given a number of historical choices at the start of the game. In order to progress up the Peninsula, he must secure supply points on either the James or the York river. In turn, those can be gained by capturing Norfolk (which could take a few turns with the Virginia about) or Yorktown, which can be difficult to take even with overwhelming forces. The Union’s ace is their siege guns, which make dealing damage possible without a pitched battle.

The Union player is thus given the same options McClellan was, with much the same potential result. A careful, methodical advance to Yorktown with siege guns in tow will be undoubtedly successful, but at the cost of a good deal of time. Norfolk’s fall is almost certainly assured as well but at a potential loss of time and casualties. Once those have fallen, the Confederates will probably begin withdrawing up towards Richmond to prevent being cut off from the rear. The Union player at this point is given similar choices to McClellan – attack blindly into the Richmond defenses or bring up the guns to batter the defenses in. The player must weigh carefully the potential losses of any move, all while keeping an eye on the “clock.”

McClellan “confidence” points are a wonderful touch. They function, at times, as a happy amalgamation of army morale, political will/support and the general’s confidence in the campaign. While outnumbered, if the Confederates successfully take the offensive they may pull out a win, which lines up with history nicely.

The Confederates, in addition to trying for a successful attack or two, must play for time as Johnson did. Given that the fall of their various strongholds is almost certainly assured and sticking around to be hit by siege guns is a losing proposition, they’re given the options Johnson had historically. Their “dummy” counters help them organize surprise attacks (a la Gaines Mill) and generally keep the Union guessing about where they’re strongest. They must, at some point, take offensive action in the game, as failing to do so will result in heavy losses from the (presumably positioned) Union siege guns.

This all results in a game that does a fairly decent job of illustrating the problems of the campaign, without forcing the player into foolish (historical) actions for the sake of balance or “history.” I look forward to further games similar to this one from Worthington Games.
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grant wylie
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Dan,

Thank you very much for the kind write up. We also feel it is one of our best designs and look forward to following it with Jacksons Valley Campaign and the Gettysburg Campaign.

Thank you,
Grant Wylie
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Dan Taylor
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The Gettysburg Campaign is not one I'm terribly interested in, but the system with Jackson's Valley campaign would be wonderful. Looking forward to it!
 
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Stu Hendrickson
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I made a couple attempts to contact company, not successful so I will ask here:
Please institute erratta putting a limit on the number of artillery replacements, esp for confederates! A cheesy tactic has emerged: the confeds atthe beginnig of the game take their 1 SP arty unit and use it as a roadblock. sure, it is eliminated in combat, but it getsrebuilt for the 2 buildpoints and used the next trn as a roadblock. This can go on for a while. i am no civil war buff, but I GUARANTEE that artilery was never used in this manner, and that the confederates were short of artillerey so they could not replace arty losses very easily.
thanks
stu hendrickson
 
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grant wylie
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Answer to Strategy problem--Stu
Stu,

It was a pleasure talking to you at Prezcon and wanted to respond asap to your question. Again, apologies for missing these.

It is correct that your opponent can use that strategy to slow you up. As he is doing this however he is surrendering Yorktown (opening up the York river to naval movement). As the Union you have several options to see.

1. After taking Yorktown conducting an amphibious landing further up the York river (what McClellan historically did).

2. Take Norfolk asap thereby opening up the James river to amphibious assault that can place you much closer to Richmond than the confederate player.

Historically the confederates did use artillery to slow the Union advance, Johnston did this at Yorktown, and Williamsburg on his slow retreat up the Peninsula. The rules do also reflect the extra cost of building artillery with the 2 buildpoint cost for artillery sp.

Also, he must place his replacement artillery with his corps commander during build. With the end run possibility of naval invasion you should be easily able to pry your opponent from that strategy.

Thanks,
Grant Wylie
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